Sarah Sargent, Partner and Head of Residential Property at Lupton Fawcett, answers your questions on property issues.

The EWS1 (Exterior Wall System Form) was introduced in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people died.

The EWS1 form is designed to be used for residential properties such as blocks of flats (including those owned by housing associations and social housing providers, as well as privately owned), student accommodation, dormitories, assisted living, care homes and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

Originally it was created to ensure residential buildings over 18m tall could be assessed for safety to allow lenders to offer mortgages. Changes in Government advice in January 2020, brought all residential buildings potentially within scope.

On 8 March 2021, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) published new guidance for valuers on when an EWS1 form is needed.  The criteria considers the height of the building, the type of cladding and (in some circumstances) how much of it there is on the building. There are also criteria relating to balconies and combustible material. You should always have a rationale to justify the request for the EWS1 form.

The issue at the moment is that not all lenders are following the RICS guidance and request an EWS1 form even where the guidance states otherwise.

It falls to the building owner/manager to obtain the EWS1 form. So, if they do not agree that an EWS1 Form is required you can then find yourself in an impossible situation

Regrettably there is currently little you can do in this situation.  This has been brought to the government’s attention by MP Clive Betts who has raised the question as to why lenders and valuers are not following this guidance.

The advice at the moment would be to speak to the building owner/manager to determine if an EWS1 form has been completed.  If not, you should speak to a surveyor to determine whether or not the guidance does recommend an EWS1 form and after that you are then at the mercy of a lender.

Whilst this is far from ideal it is where we are until the lenders agree to follow the RICS guidance.

For further help or guidance on this article or in relation to Residential Property generally, please contact Sarah Sargent, on 0114 228 3281 or sarah.sargent@luptonfawcett.law.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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